Interview: Lon Freeman Returns to Western States
Lon Freeman nabbed the final spot for Western States 100 this year by taking 2nd at the Ice Age 50 miler last month. It will be his return after a disappointing first run of WS in 2007. Lon earned entry into the 2007 race by taking down Carl Anderson’s course record at Miwok with a 8:09 finish. That performance pushed Lon to the center of the radar for a top placing at Western States. Unfortunately, WS didn’t match up to some predictions. Though he’s going into the race low key this year, he has the ability and fitness to be with the contenders.
FF: What’s the biggest differences, good and bad, between your involvement in the two sports? What do you miss or like better about each?
LF: Triathlon: I miss swimming, especially on a 90+ degree day on the trail when I’m dehydrated! All I can think of is jumping in the pool and cooling off! I don’t miss the long, LOOOONG bike rides and all the traffic involved. I’ve read and heard about way too many accidents in cycling.
Ultras: There are no crazy drivers honking at you on the trail! I love covering so much ground on foot in remote areas. I also really enjoy the camaraderie of trail running and ultras, it’s much more laid back and less crowded than some of the bigger triathlons.
FF: Your name was a recognized one before the 2007 Miwok 100k but after dropping a solid Carl Anderson course record to 8:09 there, you became a valid contender in most people’s minds for the big races. Did it push your confidence to another level? What was your mindset after that performance with Western States only seven weeks away?
LF: Miwok was definitely a breakthrough race for me, but a breakthrough 100k race. I put so much specific effort and focus into running the best possible Miwok, without thinking beyond that race. My mindset afterward was “Holy crap, I’m still gonna be fried seven short weeks from now!”
FF: I read your great race report from your 2007 Western States DNF. What was your recovery/training/tapering like in the seven weeks between your super run at Miwok and WS?
LF: Two weeks off with no running, just easy cycling, two weeks getting back into a training rhythm with very low mileage (30-40 mpw), then a 50 mile training run on the Western States course followed by two taper weeks. The 50 mile effort may not have been the best move, but there was really no other option for getting in Western States specific training. From seeing what Anton did last year (winning Miwok and having a very fast WS), there’s no question that a better approach would have included significantly more miles pre-Miwok in March and April so the seven weeks in between could be used for recovery and maintenance instead of trying to build the endurance to go another 40 miles at race pace.
However, my mileage, running style, and nutrition were all geared specifically for Miwok. Consequently, I was trained for a great 100K, which is what I ran…and shortly after Foresthill, SPLAT. 🙂
FF: What did you learn from your WS experience?
LF: I learned I race best when I’m aiming for a specific course and event rather than trying to fit in too many races in short window, even though it’s really tempting with all the great races out there! Everyone is different, but I’ve learned my body responds best to a single focus in training. For better or worse, I like to pick one event, give it everything I’ve got, and then move on to the next one a few months later, not a few weeks later. Having said that, the philosophy sort of goes out the window when I get an opportunity to race Western States.
FF: You took 2nd at the Ice Age 50 miler last month. I was fortunate enough to witness your race personally and you looked solid and in control all day. How did that race play out for you?
LF: I’ve read about Ice Age several times. This was the 30th anniversary and I really enjoyed racing in a different part of the country. Everything about it – the course, race organization, volunteers – was phenomenal! I’m really glad Justine and I went, and I’d love to do it again. The Ice Age single track was gorgeous! Parts of it reminded me of the awesome White River single track, but without the long ascents and descents at altitude.
The race started WAY too fast. Shaun Pope and Zach Gingerich took off like it was a 10K cross country race! It was well out of my comfort zone, but I also didn’t know what to expect from the course. All the little rollers were so different from any 50 mile course I’ve done, and I wasn’t sure how fast or slow would end up being appropriate. I think the three of us would have gone much faster overall if we’d held back in the first 10 miles.
It was like a spaceship being launched, I used up all my booster rockets getting through the first 20 miles. I dialed back my effort level around mile 25 and hoped things would improve. The 50 mile course is a single loop followed by two different out-and-backs on the Ice Age Trail. The topography of the second out and back was much more similar to Californiatrails and once I hit something familiar, I got a second wind and bounced back.
FF: How is your recovery from it? How are you feeling entering the three weeks leading up to Western States?
LF: The recovery went well, and a few minor aches and pains have cleared up. However, given what I described about the 2007 seven-week window, I know I’m not in 100 mile race shape. At this point, I’m just happy to have a ticket to the party!
FF: 100 mile performances need the foundation of mental preparation both leading up to them and during. How are you mentally in your approach to WS this year?
LF: I’ve been mentally prepared for WS since 2004, but I’ve never been completely physically ready, with the exception of 2008. I was crushed when the smoke filled the canyons that year. For this year’s event, like I said, I’m happy to be there and I’ll enjoy the slip and slide the first 30-40 miles and then take it from there.
FF: You had a fairly substantial crew and set of pacers at WS in 2007. What is your set up in that regard this year? Are you using a pacer (I’m free that weekend…;-).
LF: I really wanted to share the 2007 experience with several friends I’d trained with, and I’m glad I did. Since then, I’ve realized I’m more focused during a race if I run without a pacer. Justine has refined crewing to an art form, and we have our system dialed in.
One notable difference for this year is not asking her to go to the River crossing or Green Gate. It’s a long trek down, and it’s not worth the stress involved in getting out there. The race has some of the best aid stations around, and it makes more sense to use them instead of putting more pressure on the crew to hurry up and wait, again.
FF: What are your plans for the rest of 2011, both personally and in running?
LF: I’m planning to move back to some shorter faster stuff later this summer and take things from there. Justine’s been doing a lot of half marathons (road and trail), and that’s an appealing option since she’s done and home from a race before noon (on the same day)!
Thanks so much for your time Lon and have a great race to Auburn!
- Darren said…
- Great interview Tim and thanks for giving it Lon!
I maybe hanging out at Foresthill; hope to see you going through in fine form.
- June 8, 2011 9:29 AM
- Footfeathers said…
- Yeah, Lon is a super nice guy. If he takes it easy in the first 40 miles, I think he’s got a good shot at a fast enough finish for top 10.
- June 8, 2011 12:15 PM
- nwgdc said…
- Great interview…I hope you continue with it. Watching Lon come through after 9 miles at IAT (yes, I know it was only 9 miles), he looked the lightest on his feet and had the biggest smile.
I guess it paid off!
- June 8, 2011 9:53 PM